One of the primary reasons mentally-taxed professionals and academics seek nootropic support is to increase their capacity for focus and concentration. The good news is that there are plenty of options out there to address different aspects of cognitive performance.
And there’s better news: by taking a moment to peek under the hood and understand how focus works, the benefits available from nootropic supplementation can be multiplied.
Highlighted below is a look at some of the best supplements to promote concentration and focus, as well as some important ingredients that the brain requires for optimal function.
How Focus Supplements Work
Much like the inner workings of a mechanical automobile or electronic thinking machine, mental performance is the product of many individual biological operations working together. Strong focus and concentration are best supported by sufficient sleep and a healthy diet which allows these processes to operate optimally.
A lifestyle hampered by insufficient sleep, unhealthy diet, and a lack of exercise will not be conducive to adequate concentration, no matter how many nootropics you take. As a matter of fact, the results could be counterproductive.
On the other hand, a brain supported by a healthy lifestyle has the nutrients to create vital chemical communicators that are crucial for the exchange of information and the thinking process. If the brain begins to run low on its chemical supply, fatigue and exhaustion set in.
Of course, even a healthy brain can suffer from a lack of concentration for a variety of reasons. For instance, there are some chemicals in the brain that signal bedtime and begin turning out the lights. Nootropics can affect specific neurotransmitter activities that ring the bells and allow the mind to resume activity with better focus.
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Additionally, some nootropics can affect hormonal activities. Adrenaline and norepinephrine are two other chemicals released into the bloodstream when the body feels stressed. This response was a characteristic of ancient hunting and gathering societies which gave humans the power to think quickly and avoid danger when threatened by predators. Stimulants can push the buttons that boost this increase in energy, promoting greater focus.
There are several ways to improve focus and concentration through nootropic use. Understanding your personal needs and health conditions is the best place to begin your search for improved focus. Additionally, be sure to speak with a qualified nutritionist or medical professional if you have any doubts.
Top Five Supplements for Improving Focus
The most commonly used psychoactive in the world is the best friend of the mentally-exhausted. Caffeine, in a supplement, energy drink, or black coffee, can instantly restore power and sharpen concentration. This can be used in the morning to lift a sleepy haze or in the later evening hours to restore vigor and focus after a long day’s work.
Caffeine works by exciting the neurons and stimulating the release of adrenaline. This increases the amounts of blood and oxygen arriving at the brain. More oxygen in the brain means more energy, and this allows a tired mind to focus more easily. Caffeine also suppresses the activities of brain chemicals that are trying to relax the body for sleep.1 There is a reason to believe that caffeine’s potent effects can be improved when accompanied by L-theanine.2
This impressive herb has been fighting the greatest obstacles to optimal focus for thousands of years. Recent studies have shown that rhodiola has a long list of specific benefits for brain health and cognitive function. Most importantly, rhodiola works to fight fatigue and improves the function of chemical communicators in the brain.
The roots of rhodiola have an inhibiting effect on monoamine oxidase, which works to breakdown chemical communicators when they have finished their task. This allows other chemicals, like dopamine, to have a greater effect.3 Dopamine is important for keeping the mind on a single task as it presides over pleasure and motivation experienced.
Phenylpiracetam was developed to allow Soviet cosmonauts the mental fortitude to remain calm and focused while in the void of space. As a nootropic, phenylpiracetam works to protect and enhance memory functions, fight stress and anxiety, and improve attention levels.
Phenylpiracetam is a very special type of stimulant that works by energizing the central nervous system, as opposed to flooding the bloodstream with stress hormones.4 This allows for the same mind-boosting effects, without the nervousness and jitters that can sometimes accompany caffeine use.5
Noopept is another nootropic that comes highly recommended for its capacity to improve attention and focus levels. This drug was originally designed to address cognitive decline in the elderly and functions as a memory enhancer. Like phenylpiracetam, noopept works to stimulate the brain and nervous system, thereby facilitating focus.6
Magnesium, Iodine, and Vitamin D
As part of a long-term plan to boost the capacity to stay alert and focused for longer periods of time without exhaustion, the brain requires important materials for optimal function. Magnesium, iodine, and vitamin D are important dietary components that are required to keep the brain supplied with energy and nutrients required for operations and regular repairs.
Deficiencies in each of these nutrients have been linked to cognitive deficiencies and increased risk of dementia in the long-term. In the short-term, a lack of balanced nutrition will result in reduced energy stores, greater susceptibility to fatigue, and diminished focus capacity. Addressing these important requirements should be considered the first step to using focus supplements to improve concentration levels.7,8
Bonus: Yoga, Exercise, and Meditation
While all the aforementioned ingredients can significantly improve the function of the brain, they can’t be considered alternatives to other brain-healthy practices. Concentration is the strength of the brain, and much like physical strength, it can be exercised.
Yoga is a highly-mental discipline that involves linking the mind and body through a practiced focus on breathing called pranayama. Studies have found that the practice of yoga is an effective remedy for the symptoms of attention deficit disorders.
Meditation is another practice that can be applied to improve the functions of the mind. Meditation is the ancient practice of interfacing with mental function and learning more about the personal dynamics of applied concentration in a variety of ways. It allows the individual greater control over their mental capacity, and this can eventually be cultivated into a higher propensity for optimal focus.
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of getting regular vigorous exercise. Clinical evidence shows there is an important link between regular exercise and a healthy brain structure, supporting proper function.9
Human nature tends to wait until a problem is big before seeking out an appropriate remedy. This is often the case in the nootropic market.
If you feel like your capacity to focus and concentrate is not where it ought to be, nootropics may be able to help. Concentration can be hampered by stress, anxiety, fatigue, external factors, and even simple factors like hunger, thirst, and tiredness.
Addressing any underlying causes of the lack of focus is also the best way to avoid aggravating the problem. If stress and nervousness is the problem, a solution like caffeine could do more harm than good.
Most importantly, those with specific medical conditions should speak to a medical professional before choosing a treatment option. This also applies to expecting and lactating mothers who run the risk of passing on potent drugs to their young children.
Photo credits: Sathit/shutterstock.com,